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Two keyboards on two screens

Last response: in Components
March 13, 2009 1:38:47 AM

ok i have two screens setup and i was wondering if you can use one keyboard and mouse to control on monitor and another keyboard and mouse to be used in the second monitor basically have two people ......its probably a dumb question but idk why not ask lol

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March 13, 2009 3:46:23 AM

Not a dumb question at all...I get the impression you would like "simultaneous users" sharing one box. Yes, this can be done, but it does require a certain amount of work to do it. The most effective way I've found to do it is with VMware. You can setup a virtual machine to use as the guest account. Then, you need a program like "USB over Network", we'll get to that in a minute. You do need some common hardware. A second Monitor for one, and a USB keyboard and mouse for the guest ( they must be USB ). I've found that a different kind ( brand/model ) than the host works best too. A USB soundcard is optional here too. Pretty much most any USB device can be mapped directly to the guest OS, locking out host access as well. This is important as it prevents "fighting" over clicks between the 2 users.

Fire up a VM with networking, then use "USB over network"to route whatever USB devices you want designated to the guest. Switch to your VM and make sure to disable the automatic mouse over feature in VMtools. If you have the client portion of "USB over network" installed your USB devices should work fine. Your client mouse and keyboard should not have any function on your host OS at this point. Using your Host mouse, move the VM to your second monitor, auto resize, etc to fill the monitor, and click back on the host OS's desktop to release the host mouse from the guest OS. Now the quest OS has a functioning keyboard and mouse ( and entire OS ) , while the host can go about his business.

While this will definately work, it takes true dedication to make it perform well as a desktop. A thorough understanding of VMware and all the tricks and tweaks to make it faster including DirectX support and 128MB graphic support is required. A dedicated disk should be used for the VM itself. The fastest drives possible, preferebly in RAID 0 just for the VM. A quad core processor at absulute minimum. Here's where multi-socket systems really shine. I prefer the AMD over the XEON here ( comparing multi-socket systems ) particularily for the NUMA Support, which helps immenslly for guest OS performance. You can use Task Manager to assign the VM to run on a specific socket and NUMA uses that sockets RAM for the VM, thus splitting both Host and Guest all the way down to a hardware level. You can also split the multiple buses/controller cards if you install your hardware in the right locations. You of course also need gobs of RAM to make sure the memory assigned to that socket doesn't walk to other sockets. I would be intersted to see how an i7 could handle this kind of workload. Iv'e tried running this kind of set-up on a single socket quadcore and performance suffered, but was still usable. On the other hand, my old quad-socket single core opteron handles this just fine.

This concept can be taken out as far as you want. The limit of simultaneous users depends entirely on how many monitors and graphic cards you have and how much sysytem resources you can thow at it. Gaming is possible also. Their are many list for VMware compatible games out there - you usually find them on Mac or Linux sights for VMware, but the lists are just as valid for VMworkstations- running in a windows enviornment, just don't expect to run crysis :)  . I am currently building a system specifically for multi-users slated for 3 simultaneous user workstations, 1 remote VPN workstation for working away from home, and 2 mediacenter VM's streaming to 2 different entertainment centers. ( think household TiVo ).

A simple 2nd user surfing station can usually be pulled off quite easily on most systems, but any heavier computing will usually slow the system substansially. It is important to at least have the VM running off a seperate HDD than the host OS, and prefereblly on a completelly dedicated one to garuntee isolation from host activites.
March 13, 2009 4:30:19 AM

wow thanks i really appreciate this information you gave me thank you
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March 13, 2009 4:33:42 AM

and i plan to do this on my gaming rig
which is
E8500 @ 4.0
4gb @ 800mhz
gtx 260

and also i would be doing this alot on my mac pro

One 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon "Nehalem" processor
12gb ddr3
4870 512mb
March 13, 2009 4:35:59 AM

i meant 6gb of ddr3
March 13, 2009 8:24:39 AM

there is actually a box that can be connected to the pc and you then hook up any monitor, mouse and keyboard to it and the computer will treat it as a normal computer without vmware, they will of course share ressources and if you use more then 4GB ram then you would need a 64bit OS.

as others said any heavy use will tax the system a lot but simple games like Everquest and WoW could be run easy with such a system, it's been a while since I saw the review of such a setup but I bet with a little googling you can find what you seek
March 13, 2009 9:50:24 AM

+10 for much power and utility.
March 13, 2009 1:14:12 PM

salabarria said:
ok i have two screens setup and i was wondering if you can use one keyboard and mouse to control on monitor and another keyboard and mouse to be used in the second monitor basically have two people ......its probably a dumb question but idk why not ask lol

What OS are you intending to use? I can't tell you how to do it on Windows, but if you want to use Linux, just have two GPUs and set up a different X server on each GPU. Somebody has already done this and posted instructions.

If you want to run Windows, maybe install Linux on the bare metal, then run your copy of Windows in a VMware or VirtualBox VM on each X server. This is NOT amenable for playing games as when I last checked, those virtualization apps did not have hardware Direct3D acceleration capability. That may have changed since I last say, but I'm not making any promises.
March 13, 2009 3:23:35 PM

well im gonna use it on windows vista 32 bit
but i will use it mostly on my new mac pro
March 13, 2009 4:26:32 PM

The add-in card method is crap-tacular at best and provides no game support whatsoever. With VMware, you have an entire community to fall back on for support. The Linux solution would probablly produce faster guest OS's, but you are "stuck" with linux as your host OS, and if your game dosen't run right in a VM, then you're forced to use wine, dual-boot, etc. on the host. I'm not a linux guy, but I actually tried this method and found the process counterproductive. It would be nice if VMware added directX support to ESX server, then a true "bare metal" solution could be possible. Hardware DirectX 9.0c acceleration is an experimental feature in VMware workstation 6.5.

Also keep in mind that this method is not comparable to traditional vm servers which rely on LAN speeds and have Terminal Services restrictions. I am curious to see if a similar method is possible using 2008 server and hypervisor. I haven't gotten around to trying that yet. The list of games that run on VMware is constantlly growing.

I've done this primarily to enable secondary web browsing / homework / office stations for the kids, but LAN gaming does work with less hardware demanding titles. Stream a mediacenter through the TV-out along with a USB souncard is an added bonus too. It sure beats building a 2nd HTPC and dealing with network transfer rates for large A/V files.
March 13, 2009 7:18:53 PM

I had looked into this a while back and never found an adequate solution, but that multiple X server solution looks like it'll meet my needs. Only plan to setup a machine for browsing as for gaming I'll currently stick to one person per PC.

I do use VMware a lot (have tried others but VMware seems to be the best to me), but don't think it'll suite my needs in this situation.

Also the non-VMware solution doesn't require USB soundcards, which although not excessively expensive, do cost more than standard PCI/PCIe ones.

I just need to work out how many of these are needed to have 12 users (depends on motherboard expansion slots).
March 13, 2009 7:46:40 PM

you can do it just fine with PCI sound cards on vmware too. I typically have a full case though and I'de hate to waste slots on a bunch of sound cards. They make cheap'o usb to headphone adapters for like $10 USD, so I thought that was the best way to go, especially with a high number of users. Having enough slots for graphics cards and sound cards would be a deal-breaker for most. Having 12 simultaneous users will put one heck of a strain on almost any anything but high performance servers, even for simple browsing stations. I agree that a single "gaming rig" is obviously a better choice for new ultra-high resource intensive games.

I wish I knew Linux better to play with this concept. If you do get this up and running using LINUX, please let me know how it goes. Theoretically, it should easily outperform the windows set-up. I need to stick with windows on mine to support my CAD softwareand some gaming. My host will also be more than capable to play all the current games without investing in another box.

Either way, LINUX or Windows, there is some major bang for the buck here. My current build should cost about $3500 complete. Compare that with the price of 4 workstations and 2 HTPC's and I think I'll come out ahead. Not to mention, one heck of host system to use when oodles of power are required.

Now, if both Devestator and salabarria would both actually try this, we would have windows, linux, and Macs covered :)  and could compare.
March 13, 2009 8:06:32 PM

I wasn't planning to put all 12 on one system, maybe two machine with 6 each or 3 with 4 each. Not sure if I could get 12 GPUs in one machine lol.

Just checked USB soundcard prices and not as much as last time I checked, so that might free up enough for an extra GPU or two.
Using USB sound, I should also be able to squeeze 6 GPUs in (including onboard).

Given that even a Sempron can cope with most browsing, I think a Phenom II X4 would easily cope with 4 users.

I should have enough stuff lying around to experiment with a 2 user setup. I'm quite busy at the moment so may take a couple of weeks but I've bookmarked this page and will keep you informed.
March 13, 2009 8:16:07 PM

On the multi-seat linux link posted, you can link again to his actual set-up. He's using some pretty basic hardware. The following is taken from his site........

"I finally got sound working... the motherboard has sound built-in, and I've added a SoundBlaster PCI128 and an Aureal Vortex card that I had lying around. The sound is routed to speakers built into the LCD panels, plus a set of external speakers surrounding the CRT. I'm still having troubles getting applications to send their sound to the right sound card, though! (Anyone with information on how to control the sound destination for Gnome apps and/or Macromedia Flash, please let me know!)."

This is one of the ( many ) problems I had as well with the windows set-up and actual sound cards. Some 3rd party software ( and web page sound ) would have trouble at times finding the right card to play on. This, along with the simplicity, is the main reason I switched to using USB devices. It's just much easier to lock out the host.

A friend of mine sent me this link today, and I wen't giddy like a school girl with the possible implications....It's a little to pricey for me, but depending on range, it could be worth it.
March 13, 2009 8:40:27 PM

The phenom II X4 will probablly be able to do this under Linux, but I know a windows based quad core should be limited to 2 perhaps 3 at most simultaneous user. The main bottleneck after number of cores is the hard drives, running anything other than a dedicated drive for a VM causes exceesive "thrashing" that will definately ruin your experience. In VMware, you just mount the drive right to the VM, but I'm not sure how the Linux set-up handles this. It would be worth looking into.
March 14, 2009 10:25:07 AM

Was looking into it further and people have gotten the sound to work correctly which Linux, which is good. And it appears to also be possible to have 2 users/seats per GPU if it 2 outputs (most these days have VGA+DVI or 2*DVI).

Yes, with the VM solution there would be more hard drive activity, especially with the way Windows handles the page file. Under Linux, providing you have enough RAM (which you would as it's not expensive) then the only real hard drive activity would be the browser cache (which I could tweak) and any files they download (but since hard drive is faster than ADSL that's not an issue).

If using it for anything other than simple browsing, one may be better off having a couple of drives in RAID.